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>> Barrel Porting :: By Bill McConnell on 2001-01-30
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You know what's really exciting? To be able to shoot a lot, reload a lot, and just experiment a lot. The Lord has blessed me with the time and opportunity to do these things. It is a very gratifying hobby. Marshall Stanton has allowed me to share some of the things I've learned in 30 years of shooting, loading, and experimenting with firearms. I'm going to focus on 2 topics today. The first is barrel porting in handguns and the second is the differences between the Ruger Super Blackhawk and the Ruger Redhawk. Let's get started.


There is barrel porting like the Mag-na-Port process and there are muzzle brakes. I will be discussing only barrel porting where holes are machined into the barrel, not attached pieces like muzzle brakes. There are a lot of opinions out there as to if porting works and how it affects accuracy, velocity and recoil reduction. Over the last 15 years I have ported (or they came that way) 3 rifles and 4 handguns. All 4 handguns were in 44 magnum and one of the rifles is a 44 mag.

Does porting work?

The first firearm I had Mag-na-ported was a rifle in 375 H&H magnum. In factory issue, which included a "magnum" recoil pad, I'd shoot it with a heavy coat on and blood would form under my skin where the recoil pad pounded my shoulder. I had it ported and also put on a better recoil pad. The difference was like night and day. What was a kick like a mule became a big shove but without the pain. Oh, there was still lots of noise and the rifle still came back mightily in recoil but the blood and pain were totally gone. With practice, I learned to shoot it easily with just a t-shirt for protection. By the way, this was a m.o.a. rifle at 200yards.

The second was a Thompson Contender in 44 magnum with a 10" bull barrel. I was shooting the (then new) Speer 300 grain plated bullet and it chrono'd out at 1450 fps. Even with the heavy Pachymar grips and forend, I simply could not stand the pain of pulling the trigger (ok, yes, I have a wimpy hand!). After I had it ported it was still a handful but I was able to shoot it with more accuracy than any handgun I have owned before or since. The hand wrenching pain was replaced with a heavy but not painful kick.

In more modern times I have gone to the Mag-na-ported "Dual Trap" (2 holes on each side of the front sight) on 2 Super Blackhawk's and one Ruger Redhawk. One of the Super Blackhawk's has a 4 5/8" barrel. When I shoot Beartooth's 300gr bullets at over 1250 fps, the recoil is simply not a factor. Yeah, there is a blast and roar but the muzzle comes up only a little and repeat shots are very fast. Even one handed, the hottest loads are very shootable. The same story is true for my 5 " Redhawk. Marshall Stanton has reported similar results with his Marlin 444 Outfitter.

How does it affect accuracy?

Darned if I can tell a difference except I shoot better when I am neither bleeding or have to feel my hand throbbing in pain (it's that wimp thing again). I have shot jacketed, lead plain base, and lead gas checked with no loss of accuracy that I can detect. In all fairness though, Marshall reports an accuracy loss with Marlin's ported rifles and plain-based bullets. I have not tested this in the Marlin rifles.

How does porting affect muzzle velocity?

I have chrographed a lot of loads over the last 11 years and the difference is under 20 fps near as I can tell with the revolvers. Rifles were never tested.

So is it just that simple?

Of course not! That would be too easy! Those ports up there by the front sight add a complication for us handloaders. If you want the best loads, you need to tune the load to the ports. While the bullet and powder are trying to lift the gun up, the ports are trying to push the gun down. They can work together and compliment each other or they can fight each other and give the shooter a lot harder time (expressed as a sting in the hand or shoulder) than necessary for the load he/she is shooting. Let's take a specific load for example. Take Marshall's 44 cal 280 WFNGC bullet and H-110 for the powder. Let's say (just for example) that the working load is 22.5 grains @ 1300 fps and you want a load that is smooth and easy on the hand. With the brass, bullet, and primers the same, try loading and shooting 22.7 grains (assuming this is not a max load) and 22.3 grains. One of these loads will most likely be easier to shoot than the others. Let's say it's the 22.3 grain load. Then try 22.1 grains and 22.4 grains along with 22.3 grains. One of these will be the easiest to shoot. While doing this testing, you can also test for field accuracy. This way you develop the most accurate and easiest to shoot load with full control. If you are patient and methodical, you come very close to having your cake and eating it too. The same thing is true in rifles. Follow the same procedure. Please be sure you are not going over or under the safe pressures for your powder/firearm. All safety rules apply.

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